In-Depth: Rep. John Katko (R-NY) introduced this bill to ensure that DHS is effectively integrating intelligence, operations, and policy to fight terrorism and quickly exchange threat information:
“It is critical that we continue our efforts in Congress to combat the threat of ISIS. With ongoing counterterrorism investigations in all 50 states, we must act to strengthen the programs that address these threats. Today’s legislation does just that, by ensuring that the Department of Homeland Security is acting efficiently and collaboratively to respond to the threat of global terrorism. I will continue to seek opportunities to work with both sides of the aisle in Congress to keep this country safe.”
When this bill passed the House along with 16 other national security measures, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) said:
“I commend the leadership of Congressman Katko on his legislation to bolster the security of our homeland. These 17 House passed Homeland Security Committee bills are all common sense solutions to improve our border security, counterterrorism posture, transportation security, and cyber defenses, as well as enhancing first responder capabilities, and streamlining the management efficiency of the Department of Homeland Security. The sooner these critical bills pass the Senate and become law, the safer the American homeland and our people will be.”
When this bill was debated (and ultimately passed in the House) in the 114th Congress in May 2016, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) expressed his support for the bill in a floor speech:
“[This bill] authorizes, within the Department of Homeland Security, the Counterterrorism Advisory Board, or CTAB, to coordinate and integrate Departmental intelligence, activities, and policy related to counterterrorism. Since 2010, the internal body, which is comprised of top DHS officials, has helped to harmonize counterterrorism programs and activities across the DHS. H.R. 4407 directs the CTAB to meet on a regular basis to coordinate and integrate the Department's counterterrorism efforts, and it sets forth the leadership and composition of the Board. H.R. 4407 also requires the DHS to report to Congress on the Board's status and activities. This legislation is a product of the House Committee on Homeland Security's bipartisan Task Force on Terrorist and Foreign Fighter Travel, which learned that the CTAB, which has operated for 6 years, was never authorized in law. To ensure that the board remains an integral part of counterterrorism policy recommendations and responses across the Department, the task force recommended that the board be codified in law. Codification of the board is consistent with the task force's finding that information sharing is critical to preventing foreign fighter travel. I believe that the CTAB should be a permanent fixture in the Department to help inform the counterterrorism decisionmaking of future Department Secretaries.”
This bill has three cosponsors in the current Congress, all of whom are Democrats. In the previous Congress, it passed the House by voice vote with the support of nine bipartisan cosponsors, including five Republicans and four Democrats.
Of Note: The Counterterrorism Advisory Board (CTAB), the board that this bill would codify, was established after the attempted “underwear bomber” attack aboard a Northwest Airlines flight in 2009. It weighs in on the issuance of National Threat Alert System alerts and helps respond to aviation threats, border threats, homegrown violent extremists, and cyber threats.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) says the CTAB is an important component of DHS’ antiterrorism work:
“The Counterterrorism Advisory Board (CTAB) is an important component of the Department of Homeland Security’s work in preventing terrorist attacks by identifying and reducing security threats and vulnerabilities.”
In a 2016 report, the House Homeland Security Committee found that CTAB’s work was valuable, and needed to be protected by codifying the board:
“Established at the behest of the Secretary of Homeland Security in 2010, the CTAB brings together top DHS officials to share information and coordinate counterterrorism activities. The CTAB has improved the Department's ability to respond to terrorism threats and harmonize counterterrorism programs and activities across DHS components. Given that the CTAB has never been authorized in law, there is a risk that the board will be dismantled and that the internal DHS gains achieved, with respect to counterterrorism coordination, will be lost. The Task Force concluded that authorization in law and updates to the charter would keep the CTAB on a strong footing so it can be utilized by future DHS Secretaries and component leaders.”
Summary by Lorelei Yang(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / 400tmax)